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PORT ANGELES — City residents packed the council chambers earlier this week to make clear to municipal officials that they don’t want “smart” electric and water meters.

“I would like to say I am opposed to the smart meter program, and I want it stopped,” resident Linda Crane said during the public comment period at the Tuesday City Council meeting.

“I think it should be stopped and even rolled back.”

Crane was speaking out against the city’s $5.4 million advanced metering infrastructure system, also called the AMI system or smart meters, which seeks to replace all of the city’s roughly 10,500 analog water and electric meters with digital devices that can be read wirelessly from City Hall. 

The project was not on the meeting agenda.

At least 12 residents spoke against the project, stepping up from an audience of 65 to 70 

Concerns ranged from the possibility of an invasion of privacy to the idea that the radio waves the smart meters use to communicate with City Hall could be harmful to human health. 

Frank Springob, a local chiropractor, said that information he has shared with public works staff and council members shows negative effects on human blood samples after being in close proximity to a smart meter installed near his practice. 

“I think this is too important to ignore,” Springob said at the meeting. “The burden of proof lies with the city in proving [smart meters] are safe.”

Springob said Wednesday that using a process called live blood analysis, he found “degradation” of blood cells in samples from three people taken while they were near the smart meter at his office, but not in samples taken from people standing away from the meter.

Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said Wednesday he has doubts about the live blood analysis procedure Springob used. 

“Live blood analysis is classical pseudoscience,” Locke said. “There’s no scientific validity to what is put under the category of live blood analysis.”

Locke said the analysis “is looking at things that normally happen to blood samples on microscope slides and attributing some of those normal changes as signs of disease.”

Springob said he was not trying to diagnose disease, only to see whether there were differences between the two types of blood samples he took.

“You can call it pseudoscience. I don’t care,” Springob said.

“I can guarantee you that with that smart meter [near Springob’s practice], I can reproduce those results over and over again,” he said.

Craig Fulton, the city’s public works and utilities director, said only about 250 of the roughly 3,100 smart meters installed in the city are transmitting to City Hall.

He added that the meter at Springob’s office installed in May 2011 has never transmitted data.

Springob said he thinks the mere presence of the meter seems to be responsible for the changes he saw in the samples.

Fulton said he will meet with Springob today to discuss his concerns.

Fulton said the meters’ radio frequencies are well below Federal Communication Commission thresholds for human exposure. 

“Our meters are far below the most stringent regulations out there,” he said.

Those with concerns can call for a utility worker to measure the energy level, Fulton said, adding that another measurement could be done after the meter is transmitting data.

Fulton said Wednesday the data transmission of the 250 meters is part of testing to ensure the computer systems of the city and Mueller Systems, the North Carolina-based firm installing the meters under contract with the city, can talk to each other successfully.

The final schedule for the project will depend on the success of these tests, Fulton said.

The smart meters are being read visually, like traditional analog meters, until the AMI system is fully operational, he added.

The smart meter system is being funded through a municipal bond sale from 2010, Fulton said, and the bonds will be repaid through city utility rates.

Installation was expected to be completed by January 2012, but software problems have caused delays in completing the project, city officials said.
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